IT could be Tim Cone’s modern version of Tommy Manotoc’s epic `One step backward, two steps forward’ coaching ploy.
B-Meg's master tactician pulled out starters James Yap and Peter June Simon in the homestretch of Game Three of the PBA Governors Cup Finals, which the Llamados lost, 84-93, on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Buried by an avalanche of three-point shots in the third quarter, the Llamados found themselves trailing by as many as 21 points and got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The moment he realized the Llamados couldn’t stop the Elasto Painters’ momentum, Cone, seeing action in his 25th Finals appearance, took out his backcourt tandem and started thinking about the next game.
“I’m just a big picture thinker. I just really felt that this is about winning the series and not just about winning one game,” said Cone in the post-game interview.
“If I can steal some rest for PJ and James, and get them ready for the next game, then I think that’s a better strategy at this point, and that’s basically what I’m doing.”
The move by Cone easily brought to mind the same strategy applied by Manotoc during the 1980 PBA Open Conference Finals when he decided to bench his U-Text star players after sensing the Wranglers could no longer overhaul an 11-point fourth quarter deficit against Toyota in Game Four of the Finals.
Manotoc later uttered the unforgettable line 'One step backward, two steps forward,’ when asked about his coaching approach.
But it was not Manotoc who Cone mentioned but legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson, who he said did the same thing with Chicago during the Bulls’ championship run with the great Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in the nineties.
He also recalled the similar strategies he used with his multi-titled Alaska teams in the nineties, when he pulled out stars like Johnny Abarrientos, Bong Hawkins and Jojo Lastimosa one by one and let the second stringers finish the game.
“So it’s nothing new,” Cone said. “And I just wasn’t going to waste all the energy of James and PJ, especially trying to get back on the basketball game.”
Yap, who’s nursing a back spasm, finished with just seven points, while Simon only had four.
Game Four of the series is set on Sunday, also at the Big Dome.
The American coach admitted the better team won on this night.
“Rain or Shine played with great energy, played like wounded Tigers,” he said. “They got on a roll, hit shots, got great momentum and we couldn’t stop them.”